If you plan to appreciate all Asia has to offer then sooner or later you will arrive in South Korea and her capital.
Seoul is one of most technically advanced cities in the region, and while it can be an expensive place to visit if you let it, there are a few tips for smashing Seoul City on a budget.
Here are some helpful ways I have used that will have you exploring all the best the South Korean capital has to offer. Plus there should be enough spare change for a spot of Korean BBQ.
Swap the Hotel for a Guesthouse
It’s a struggle to find a decent cheap hotel anywhere near the centre of Seoul, so if you don’t mind interacting with other travellers, then a guesthouse may be a better place for you to rest your head.
Most guesthouses around Seoul city have a selection of both dorms and private rooms on offer. Many are situated near to MRT stations meaning its easy to navigate around the city.
Both the I Biz Hostel and Room in Korea Guesthouse I stayed at during my last visit came with perks such as a kitchen and a washing machine, and importantly both were a fraction of the price of the standard chain hotel.
Although guesthouses rooms in Seoul can be quite small compared to western standards, they are clean, comfortable, and most importantly cheap as chips. When combined with a low-cost airline, guesthouses can offer affordability for travellers on even the tightest of budgets.
Try Korean Noodles
While South Korean food can vary, the noodles provide a cheap, fast, and a convenient way to get a decent feed. Cafes dispensing these warm bundle of joy are found along almost any side street in Seoul. As long as you’re not dining in an upmarket restaurant, the prices won’t break the bank either,
If you’re on a seriously tight budget, then head to the local store and pick up a five pack of Korean noodles. If the guesthouse or apartment you booked comes equipped with a stove and a pan, then all you need is to add some water and you’re ready to go.
The great thing is the noodles in Korea tend to be larger in size and provide a more filling meal than the standard noodles you’re used to at home.
Fancy upgrading? Then grab a handful of veggies plus an egg – now you’ve got a Korean super noodle meal!
See Seoul for Nothing
While I would certainly recommend visiting the main tourist attractions such as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the downside is these taking these trips is they can be pricey. I paid around $130 USD for my DMZ trip, so make sure you plan your budget accordingly to allow for the highlights.
Seoul, however, is full of great free afternoon activities, such as gardens walks, parks, museums & galleries, and none of them will cost a penny.
The War Memorial Museum of Korea is one of the most well-presented and informative museums I’ve had a chance to visit while travelling. The fee to enter this enormous museum, like most others I visited in Seoul, is zero!
Stop by the Visitors Centre for extensive listings of free things to do in the city. You could even try websites like etrigg or Couchsurfing to meet some new friends and see the city the way the locals do.
Workout for Free
If you’re a fan of the outdoors, then there are plenty of city parks to visit and wander around for free. There is also literally mile upon miles of river walks which you allow you to cycle, run, or walk around the waterways of Seoul city.
Thinking about paying to use a gym?
Don’t bother! Get creative and you will find outdoor gyms carefully places along the river that cost absolutely nothing to use.
Swap Taxis for Public Transport
As with most cities, jumping in a taxi can be an expensive experience, but it’s entirely manageable to avoid taxis altogether because the Seoul Subway System is so efficient.
Public Transport can take you almost anywhere in the city for just a few US dollars.
Koreans, in general, are mostly friendly and welcoming to foreigners. You don’t need to be afraid to take the MRT because it’s safe, cheap, and efficient. I’ve had no issues even a night when the slightly drunk Seoulite come out to the party.
Use 5G Wi-Fi
If you find yourself constantly checking Facebook or Instagram, the last thing you want to get home to is a gigantic phone bill. The easiest way to avoid paying international roaming fees is by switching to a local SIM card during your trip. It makes sense when spending some time in South Korea, but can also be a hassle if the proposed trip is only a few days.
The good news is cafes, coffee shops, shopping malls, museums, train stations, and airports are just some of the places I’ve accessed the Internet via free Wi-Fi.
It’s fast too.
South Korea is the only place in the world I’ve had the chance experience 5G speeds regularly. During a Skype call, my father even joked the reception was so clear it sounding like I was in the same room.
Try Seoul Coffee
As someone who grew up in England, tea is my preferred drink of choice. However, I will admit the coffee scene in Seoul is certainly in full swing.
Walking along some of the more busy streets one could be mistaken for believing every 2nd store is a coffee shop.
It’s not uncommon to come across two or even three Starbucks on the same street.
Coffee shops help provide a warm refuge while wandering around the city in the harsh Korean winter. Many have toilets and free Wi-Fi, which makes them the perfect location to recharge the batteries and refuel. They also offer a great place to people watch.
Finally, try something different.
You could stay on a locals couch (or two) like I did. Couchsurfing is a made for travellers who are exploring on a tight budget. Looking for first-hand local knowledge or want to meet others when travelling solo, then couchsurfing.com is your go-to website.
The Couchsurfing scene in Seoul is active, with regular meet ups and even the odd day trip organised. The Seoul Couchsurfing group provides a perfect place to get advice, meet locals and other travellers who are in the city.
It was because of my first Couchsurfing host, Sushee, that I found about visiting a jjimjilbang.
These public bathhouses may sound like dodgy places, but for only around $9 USD the jjimjilbang I visited provided a place to wind down and relax. With steam, dry, and hot rooms, plus a shower and shave area, these night bathhouses are the places to go and sleep on the cheap. You can stay all night, and many do. There was even a small café selling drinks and instant noodles for breakfast.
Smashing Seoul on a budget doesn’t get any more interesting than sleeping in a public bathhouse!
Seoul City on a Budget
Check out these other hot spots:
Gwangjang Market – the nation’s first market and continues to thrive as a popular tourist destination today. The second floor of the market provides all of your silk, satin, and linen bedsheet stores, which are the largest and most famous in Seoul.
Gyeongbokgung Palace – the National Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum are located on the grounds of this palace, built six centuries ago by the founder of the Chosun dynasty.
National Museum of Korea – the largest museum in Korea with over 220,000 objects in its collection. It has six permanent exhibition galleries such as Historical Gallery and Fine Arts Gallery.
Also, why not visit:
Seonyudo Island – one of the most popular tourist destinations on the west coast during the summer, lies in the heart of the Gogunsan-Yeoldo archipelago and consists of some 20 islands in Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do.
Smashing Seoul city on a budget images by toolsoftravel.com